Shifting the debate to create conditions where Serbia might import GMO cattle feed concerns the Greens. Much of the media commentary in Serbia has focused on whether importing GMO feed, that is not affected by the toxin, might be a solution. The government has faced intense lobbying on this point. But Karic has called for the government to be clear on who has been lobbying on behalf of the GMO industry.
The Greens of Serbia have urged their government to not swap one harmful agricultural product for another on the back of a health scare that has affected local dairy production. The local dairy market has been hit badly by the discovery of aflatoxins, a fungus that can cause cancer, in grain that has been used to feed dairy cattle.
There has been a call for Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) food produce to be allowed to be imported into the country to replace the aflatoxin-contaminated food produced within the country.
There have been government-level accusations that the toxin scare has been initiated by manufacturers of GMO products because they want the cattle feed produced in the country declared dangerous so their products can be imported. While the country does currently ban the import of GMO produce, there are strong voices calling for these laws to be liberalised.
The Greens want to make sure that the reaction to the crisis is comprehensive, rather than reactionary.
“We must look at how we regulate to make sure there is no aflatoxin in our food," said Ivan Karic, leader of the Greens of Serbia. “Furthermore, we must punish those who allowed food contaminated with toxic feed into the food chain, and who failed to let people know about the risks.”
But shifting the debate to create conditions where Serbia might import GMO cattle feed concerns the Greens. Much of the media commentary in Serbia has focused on whether importing GMO feed, that is not affected by the toxin, might be a solution. The government has faced intense lobbying on this point. But Karic has called for the government to be clear on who has been lobbying on behalf of the GMO industry.
Serbia’s anti-GMO stance is facing pressure on many fronts. The World Trade Organisation has said the Serbian government must allow at least the import and transport of GMOs if Serbia wants to join the organisation.
Earlier this month, Monsanto, a global leader in GMOs, tried to get a foothold in Serbia’s agricultural sector. They proposed a burden sharing deal with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) where they would provide cheap seeds to smaller farmers. However the EBRD withdrew their support after sustained opposition across Europe.
In Serbia, the Greens joined with other anti-GMO activists and protested outside the EBRD offices. The deal fell apart shortly after.
Karic is clear that letting GMOs into Serbia is a mistake, no matter the situation. Ignoring the risks associated with GMOs based on pressure from big business is a mistake.
“A total ban on the production and marketing of GMOs in Serbia is long overdue,” he said. “Our people should not become hostages in the hands of GMO producers just because of economic interests and faulty laws.”
At the start of February, before the dairy scandal broke, the Serbian Greens presented the ‘Declaration of Serbia Without GMOs’ to the National Assembly, calling for Serbia to resist any moves to force them to allow the growth, use or transport of GMOs. The dairy crisis might be the biggest challenge to this goal. But the Greens see the declaration as part of a long-term plan to ensure the health of Serbians over and above industry pressure.
"The situation with aflatoxin is further evidence that the ‘Declaration of Serbia Without GMOs’ should be adopted as soon as possible,” said Karic. “We need to avoid a situation in the future where corporate interests come before the health of citizens.”